Mankind has had a fascination with astronomy since before the word “astronomy” existed. Celestial bodies that could be seen from Earth were among the first forms of keeping time and dreaming of other worlds.
As such, there may have been great astronomers that had no words or means of describing any theories they may have come up with. Advances in technology have allowed for the sharing of knowledge in such a way that each age is able to build upon the knowledge of the age before it, which is why these great men are listed below in chronological order.
1 Nicholas Copernicus (1473-1543)
Nicholas Copernicus earned his place a one of the greatest astronomers through challenging the Ptolemaic view (the view that the universe revolved around the Earth) of the universe and developing the opposing heliocentric doctrine.
This Polish astronomer could not account for the ability to see other planets pass through if the Ptolemaic view was correct. Instead, he proposed that the sun was the center of the universe and everything revolved around it. He also declared that the days were made by the Earth’s rotation on an axis and that a year was the result of the Earth’s revolution around the sun.
2 Galileo Galilei (1564-1642)
Although Galileo is known for his accomplishments in physics, mathematics, and technology, his role as one of the greatest astronomers may be one of the most important roles he played and directly relates to his other accomplishments.
Galileo spent the latter portion of his life under house arrest due to perfecting the refracting telescope that would reveal the orbiting moons of Juniper, sunspots, the terrain of the Earth’s moon, and the Milky Way. All of these details not only refuted the idea that the universe revolved around the Earth, but also gave birth to the idea of the basic principle of relativity.]
3 Johannes Kepler (1571-1630)
Though Johannes Kepler is known for many accomplishments involving mathematics and astrology, his works as one of the greatest astronomers of all time put in place the foundation for the universal law of gravitation.
Kepler combined his love of religion and the idea that the Earth has a soul with the elements of geometry to develop the 3 laws of planetary motion. Although he clung to the concept that the universe was contained within multiple spheres, he was a strong defender of heliocentrism.
4 Isaac Newton (1643-1727)
Isaac Newton developed universal gravitation as well as enunciating the 3 laws of motion as a direct result of the work done by Johannes Kepler. His work in this area not only cemented the reality of heliocentrism, but also explained how it was possible for the universe to be held together minus any external spheres.
His work in physics and math led him to the discovery of refracting light using a prism and further led to the development of the reflecting telescope known as the Newtonian Reflector.
5 Albert Einstein (1879-1955)
Like some of the greatest astronomers before him, Albert Einstein recognized that the universe cannot be unchanging. His accomplishments are too numerous to mention, but foremost among them may be his special theory of relativity, to which he added the cosmological constant.
Einstein’s work with magnetism and gravity laid the foundation for modern concepts concerning energy and quantum mechanics. Collaborating with other astronomers, Einstein also developed the concept of the wormhole using the rules that govern positive and negative electrons.
The greatest astronomers of all time were those that developed the universal concepts that are used today. Their work provided the basis for astronomy today and serves to combine the two seemingly opposing forces of mathematics and an immeasurable omnipotent being. It was through a combination of individual skill sets and powers of observation that they made such significant advances in astronomy.